So an hour or so ago I said that I would have to wait until tomorrow to process the day's events, but I lied. A solid hour of tossing and turning while visions of mediocre relief pitchers parading as closers danced in my head lead me back to my laptop. Mediocre relief pitchers parading as closers, that's kind of what we got today. Not so much in Lindstrom, but definitely in Lyon. Now I can't help but think Dave Cameron is being a little hyperbolic in his assessment of Brandon Lyon, but everything he says is correct. Lyon isn't good. Period.
He's average in every respect. Compare him to anyone else already in the Astros bullpen and you'd lose him in the haze of mediocre total-skill sets. Alberto Arias and Chris Sampson have high ground ball percentages. Jeff Fulchino is just a clydesdale that is dependable. Matt Lindstrom has life his is stuff that portends to better things to come. Sammy Gervacio has an awesome delivery that gives him difficult to distinguish stuff. Brandon Lyon literally is average in every respect. Pick a stat or a trait. Look at it. It'll be average.
Lyon will definitely go down as a not good signing. Will it ever be a signing that's cited more than two years after the contract is completed? No. Carlos Lee was a bad signing, so was Barry Zito. Lyon is just a poor signing—for the Astros. If any other team inked Lyon to this deal, it probably wouldn't resonate as much as it does right now. There's the Ed Wade loves relief pitching too much factor. There's the luck inflated ERA factor (thank God they're upgrading defense a SS, we think). And there's the this team doesn't have the payroll flexibility to afford this factor. Those three factors make this signing laughable to outsiders and repugnant to Astros fans.
But I don't think it's bad because of in 2011 and 2012, just 2010. We never had enough money to start with this winter. Ed Wade had just made a pretty savvy little trade with the Florida Marlins to bring in someone who would add depth to a bullpen that didn't need a closer because the Astros won't be good enough to justify needing a true closer, much less over paying for one (which they didn't even end up doing).
Really, he could have just stopped there. I would have continued to actually be content and happy with the state of this team for at least a few hours. And then the malaise of being an Astros fan could have set back in when I realized I was happy not because my team had gotten better, but because my team didn't do anything to make themselves measurably worse off.
But now it appears as though they have.
Now, I'm left wondering the following questions: Why did we have to move so fast to sign a relief pitcher who could be a closer? There were still options out there; we didn't really even need someone else (i.e. another closer-esque reliever is a luxury, not a necessity). Why move so fast on Lyon and offer him everything he wanted? Why not try to whittle him down in price or years (preferably price, but only scantly)? What will Ed Wade use to justify Lyon versus someone with promise and an ability to add worthwhile value to the team...like say Mike Gonzalez?
(Please don't let it be his 2009 ERA, please, please, please, please don't. I won't be able to take it. Something of mine will break after I hurl it against something if I awake to an Ed Wade quote about Lyon's ERA.)
For a brief moment it felt like the Astros had faced the reality of their situation: they have to stop pretending they are contenders. Lindstrom was a savvy trade to provide a cost-controlled insurance for the backend of the bullpen for the next few years. It allowed us wiggle room to try and fill in other gaps that could actually have placed us in the faint pale of the glow of contenders. After that trade I smiled because I was proud of Ed Wade. He'd made a move that was exactly what this team needed.
But now, with Lyon inked for too much, we're hamstrung. It's like Ed Wade is waiving the white flag on finding help at 3B or SP and figured he'd roll the dice on Lyon and see what happened. It's ilke he's forgotten that things like signing Joel Pinero late in the game can make the a huge difference, if you have the money to do it at the time. Or he's forgotten about all the players who signed late in the ball game at just about every position last year, too.
If you haven't picked up on the meme of this post, it's that I can't figure this deal out. It's really not a terrible deal for any team that has payroll flexibility and a total dearth of options for their bull pen. But for the Astros—especially after the Lindstrom trade—Ed Wade dropped the ball in a big way. Yes, Lyon might bounce back to his 2008 control and have his 2009 strand-rate and BABIP, but why gamble one-half to one-third of your budget on it?
To answer this post's title: The Astros got nothing the needed, just something a few in the front office might have wanted. Now they're left wanting things that can't afford. So, I guess they got screwed hamstrung. There's really nothing about Lyon's signing that can bring cause to justify it. There was a lot in the Lindstrom trade, but that's been buried under the mountain of inanity that is three years and fifteen million dollars for Lyon.
Of course, we also have yet to hear the final word on Lyon's deal. So maybe myself, Dave Cameron, and just about every baseball person I follow on Twitter will be eating crow tomorrow...or so I can hope.